At the full council meeting Jan 13th 2015 Cllr Mary Lawes (UKIP Leader of the Opposition) raised the issue of Freedom of Information and how this govt will bring about legislation to change it – for the worse, but thankfully that idea has been put on the back burner for now
Cllr Susan Joan Carey(Tory) Cabinet Member for Finance informed the chamber and public that there were many vexatious FOI requests which wasted tax payers’ money – the total cost for FOI’s in Shepway was £50,000,the equivalent of 0.5% Council Tax she said.
Now an FOI Request at local govt level is set at18 hours. Each hour is billed at 25 pounds. And an FOI request can take 20 days.
So lets do the maths. 50,000 divided by 25 pounds equals 2000 hours divide this by 18 and you get 111.1111 FOI’s.
How many FOI’s does Shepway receive in a year?
Many more than 111 in the course of a year we suspect. So it looks like real value for money. Also what Cllr Carey seems to misunderstand about FOI is that redaction time is not taken into account even though she said “One of the reasons for this cost was the need to protect individuals’ data because of the Data Protection Act. This redaction was extremely time consuming.”
FOI does not allow for “redaction” time to be taken into account IT IS NOT part of the cost. So Cllr Carey’s incorrect assertion that it cost the ratepayer money is simply incorrect and untrue.
At KCC level Cllr Susan Joan Carey informed us that the expenditure for FOI was £133,000. So again lets do the maths/ 133,000 divided by 25 equals 5230 hours. Divide this by 18 hours equals 295.5 FOI’s. Now again we cannot believe that KCC receive 295.5 FOI’s in any one year. They receive a lot more we believe
So what is Cllr Susan Carey’s point? That she doesn’t like FOI? Does she like her Tory partners in National Govt want it amended so less information will be available? Possibly. Doesn’t she believe in open transparent and accountable govt whether it is at National, County or District level?
The way she was moaning about the costs being burdensome doesn’t hold up, but then neither do the figures she often gives in the chamber, when scrutinized properly . As Cllr Susan Carey (Tory) is Cabinet Member for Finance, so responsible for the money, might she explain why, with her eight other Tory Colleagues on SDC’s Cabinet, she and they, have run up the single largest debt of 62.5 million in SDC’s history.
Is Cllr Susan Carey being penny wise and pound foolish? We’ll leave you to decide that.
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I’ve made quite a few FOI requests of SDC in the past and also my local Parish Council – this is because one FOI invariably leads to another and then suddenly you have shed loads depicting everything that happened. I’ve also started several complaints because SDC failed to operate within their “20 day” policy for FOIs.
In those days SDC did redact stuff but the Parish Council didn’t redact for the same stuff, this didn’t make any difference to the outcome of the problem but we could clearly see who said what and who did what or didn’t as the case was.
FOI requests are highly valuable tool and I have to give grudging credit to the Tories for their “climbdown” over messing with the FOI Act even though that must have hurt….